ABOVE: Sheryl Swoopes and the Jack Yates High School Girls Basketball Team pose in front of her mural on the Forward Times building, painted by contemporary artist, Jeremy “Stem and Thorn” Biggers
The historic Forward Times recently revealed an exciting new addition to its building by award-winning multidisciplinary contemporary artist, Jeremy Biggers (also known as Stem and Thorn). After a recent partnership with Biggers and the Nike corporation, Forward Times unveiled a mural honoring WNBA legend, Sheryl Swoopes on Friday, May 27th.
The purpose of the mural is to honor basketball icon, Sheryl Swoopes, who was the first player to be signed in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), where she won three WNBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards (2000, 2002, and 2005); and four WNBA titles (1997-2000) as a member of the Houston Comets.
Through this mural, Nike provided funding for Biggers, a Dallas-based artist, to create a piece that honors Swoopes’ rich legacy, and also inspires a future generation of young Black and Brown girls. As a Texas native, and having spent her career playing in Houston, the Third Ward community is of special importance to Swoopes as it’s a place where she wants representation, particularly for young Black and Brown women to be visible.
When asked how the idea of this mural came about, Biggers shared that Swoopes has been one of his all-time favorite basketball players since he was a child.
“So, last year in April, I tweeted: ‘I want to paint a Sheryl Swoopes mural in Houston or Lubbock. Someone get me a wall!’ And my friend, who works for Nike, texted me and asked was I serious. I was like, ‘Absolutely!’ and so it began. Shortly after that I was on a Zoom call with Sheryl Swoopes and the Nike team and we were exchanging ideas and looking for a wall,” Biggers revealed.
The Nike team, with the help of the Game Seven Agency and Houston film director, Datubo MacHarry began scouring the Third Ward community streets for possible walls to host the mural. After a few unsuccessful attempts, MacHarry was pointed in the direction of Forward Times, a 62-year-old Black woman-owned publication. Considering what Biggers and Swoopes intended for the mural to represent, it was a perfect fit.
Karen Carter Richards, Forward Times CEO and Publisher shared that it was a full-circle moment for the business. “We were always fans of Sheryl Swoopes and the Comets, and my youngest daughter was actually the ball girl for the Comets at the time that Sheryl played on the team. So, she would be in the locker room with them. We are so honored for this opportunity!”
The mural, which sits on the corner of Almeda Road and Rosewood Street, is a powerful piece, to say the least. Sheryl Swoopes is seen, in a Comets uniform looking westward, while a young Black girl is depicted in front of her sporting a vibrant crimson jersey with gold tape forming Swoopes’ jersey number #22 on the front.
Most of the Third Ward community knows that crimson and gold is synonymous with Jack Yates High School. And in a moment of total alignment, the Jack Yates High School girls’ basketball team was invited to attend the unveiling and meet Swoopes. When asked by the Lady Lions if the crimson and gold colors in the young lady’s jersey were intentional, Biggers replied, “Of course it was. I did my homework.”
Swoopes arrived at the unveiling as regal as ever. As she stepped out of the Black SUV, she was casual yet fashionable in a large Christian Dior hat and sunglasses. A small and eager crowd gathered around her with their cell phones in hand. Swoopes glided through and warmly greeted everyone in attendance while making her way to the unveiling. When she got to Biggers, they shared an embrace and she finally looked up at the mural. Overcome with emotion, Swoopes chose to move back several feet to take in the entirety of the mural. She shared that “[the mural] came out better than I thought or than I could have ever imagined,” and she proceeded to joke, “I’m looking at my lips because I was mad about something! I was like ‘Ref, you missed that call!’”
Swoopes made time to interact with the Yates girls basketball team in the meantime; taking some photos, learning how to hold up the JY hand sign and making time to connect with each of the girls before they headed back to campus for dismissal.
After the unveiling, Swoopes and her family and close friends, joined Forward Times, Nike reps and Game Seven Agency in an intimate, casual reception inside of the Forward Times office. A delicious menu that honored Swoopes with themed food and beverage items was provided by Soiree Catering. A touching champagne toast, provided by Biggers and Swoopes followed.
On her way out, Swoopes took to her Instagram Live to show the mural to her excited followers and fans; many of whom strongly agreed that this is further proof that it is time for Houston to bring the Comets back!
Forward Times is honored to host this mural in celebration of the incredible, Sheryl Swoopes and we hope that you take some time to stop by and check it out!